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Tackling clinical heterogeneity across the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Frontotemporal Dementia spectrum using a transdiagnostic approach

Ahmed, RM; Bocchetta, M; Todd, EG; Tse, NY; Devenney, EM; Tu, S; Caga, J; ... Rohrer, JD; + view all (2021) Tackling clinical heterogeneity across the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Frontotemporal Dementia spectrum using a transdiagnostic approach. Brain Communications 10.1093/braincomms/fcab257. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The disease syndromes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia display considerable clinical, genetic and pathological overlap, yet mounting evidence indicates substantial differences in progression and survival. To date, there has been limited examination of how profiles of brain atrophy might differ between clinical phenotypes. Here, we address this longstanding gap in the literature by assessing cortical and subcortical grey and white matter volumes on structural MRI in a large cohort of 209 participants. Cognitive and behavioural changes were assessed using the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination and the Cambridge Behavioural Inventory. Relative to 58 controls, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (n = 58) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia (n = 41) patients displayed extensive atrophy of frontoinsular, cingulate, temporal and motor cortices, with marked subcortical atrophy targeting the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and striatum, with atrophy further extended to the brainstem, pons and cerebellum in the latter group. At the other end of the spectrum, pure-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients (n = 52) displayed considerable frontoparietal atrophy, including right insular and motor cortices and pons and brainstem regions. Subcortical regions included the bilateral pallidum and putamen, but to a lesser degree than in the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia groups. Across the spectrum the most affected region in all three groups was the insula, and specifically the anterior part (76-90% lower than controls). Direct comparison of the patient groups revealed disproportionate temporal atrophy and widespread subcortical involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia relative to pure-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In contrast, pure-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis displayed significantly greater parietal atrophy. Both behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia were characterised by volume decrease in the frontal lobes relative to pure-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The motor cortex and insula emerged as differentiating structures between clinical syndromes, with bilateral motor cortex atrophy more pronounced in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia compared to pure-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and greater left motor cortex and insula atrophy relative to behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Taking a transdiagnostic approach, we found significant associations between abnormal behaviour and volume loss in a predominantly frontoinsular network involving the amygdala, striatum and thalamus. Our findings demonstrate the presence of distinct atrophy profiles across the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia spectrum, with key structures including the motor cortex and insula, Notably, our results point to subcortical involvement in the origin of behavioural disturbances, potentially accounting for the marked phenotypic variability typically observed across the spectrum.

Type: Article
Title: Tackling clinical heterogeneity across the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Frontotemporal Dementia spectrum using a transdiagnostic approach
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/braincomms/fcab257
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/braincomms/fcab257
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) (2021). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Frontotemporal dementia-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, behavioural, cognition, imaging
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Neurodegenerative Diseases
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10137423
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